American Studies students frequently earn recognition and funding to support their research endeavors. This recognition includes an undergraduate essay prize, undergraduate honors and funding for graduate student research travel around the globe.
The Carper Prize is awarded annually to a graduating American Studies major who has exhibited extraordinary research and writing abilities. The prize goes to the best research paper in the senior research seminar. Funding for the award comes from the Carper Endowment, which was amassed through a series of gifts from alumna Elsie M. Carper (BA ’41) and other individuals.
Pioneering reporter and editor Elsie M. Carper (BA ’41) worked at the Washington Post for 48 years, displaying an unwavering commitment to improving media coverage and journalism employment opportunities for African Americans and women. When she became the Post’s first female assistant managing editor, she used her position to hire a more diverse pool of journalists.
Carper received many prestigious awards for her work on issues like teaching reading and segregation in schools. In 1990 she received a GW Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award, and in 1993, she was inducted into the Society of Professional Journalists Hall of Fame. Carper gave generously to the Department of American Studies until her death in 2007. Her support helped fund two major initiatives to support student research: the Elsie M. Carper Prize, and the Elsie M. Carpenter Undergraduate Scholarship Fund.
2017–18: Samantha Gonzalez: “The Sum of the Whole: The Negro Units of the Federal Theatre Project”
2016–17: Ciaran Lithgow, “Constructing the Conservative Vision: Housing Policy in the Cold War”
2015–16: Ariel Amaru, “From Legal to Social Authority: Black Women’s Reporting of Domestic Violence”
2014–15: Altaire DeLeon, “On Negotiating Latino Vernacular Housescapes: The Spatial Performance of Mexican/Mexican-American Citizenship in East Los Angeles”
2013–14: Rachel Holbreich, “First Do Harm”
MA ’17, PhD Student
"Thanks to the support of the Kasch Foundation, I visited 10 different archival collections [that] allowed me to start my dissertation."
The Horton-Vlach Fund supplements a broad range of scholarship, from faculty and student research to public events and educational enrichment activities. The fund was launched in 2014 to honor two former professors in American Studies, James Horton and John Vlach, for their extraordinary research and teaching legacies.
Emeritus Professor John Vlach (right) was honored at the reception launching the Horton-Vlach Fund for American Studies.
James Oliver Horton was the Benjamin Banneker Professor of American Studies and History at GW and Historian Emeritus of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. He taught the “tough stuff” of American history with a quick wit and deep historical knowledge, introducing classes to invisibility issues being raised by black feminists, masculinity challenges for enslaved and newly freed black men and class overlaps and tensions among working-class men and women.
Horton’s graduate teaching produced a generation of museum staff and curators attuned to making African American history central to the history of the country. He acted as historical expert for then-First Lady Hillary Clinton, and he held international influence as a visiting lecturer and professor in parts of Europe and Asia. In 2006 Horton was elected to the National Academy of Arts and Sciences. That same year, he received the George Washington University President’s Medal for scholarly achievement and teaching excellence. He died in 2017.
John Vlach continues to serve as an emeritus professor in the Department of American Studies, with special expertise in folklife and folk art, African American folklife and vernacular architecture. He has authored 10 books and served as a guest curator or consultant to numerous museums in the past 30 years. He has contributed to exhibitions from the New Orleans Museum of Art to the Henry Gallery in Seattle, and he continues to be closely involved with several museum and historical preservation projects in Washington, D.C.
At the request of American Studies alumna Libby Ellsworth-Kasch (BA ’08), the Jeffrey C. Kasch Foundation pledged a generous donation to the department to support student research. The foundation’s five-year pledge of annual donations will go toward the Horton-Vlach Fund, to support graduate and undergraduate students who have travel or other expenses related to their original research projects.
Thanks to a generous donation from the Jeffrey Kasch Foundation that was contributed to the Horton-Vlach Fund, many of our doctoral students have conducted breakthrough research around the globe.
PhD candidate Vyta Baselice received summer funding to conduct research on tabby architecture (an early form of concrete) in Georgia and Florida. She visited several historic sites to learn about the labor-intensive tabby production, which used to be performed by slaves. She presented her findings at the American Studies Association conference in Chicago.
PhD candidate Sara Awartani used her funding from the Horton-Vlach Fund to visit the Center for Puerto Rican Studies archives in New York City. Her dissertation on the anti-imperialist Puerto Rican independence movement focuses on activist Albizu Campos and his years-long, U.S.-sanctioned imprisonment and torture.
PhD student Craig Allen visited archive collections in Richmond, Va., and Columbia University. The archives provided primary source material that helped Allen further his theories about American intelligence-gathering agencies in postwar Paris in connection with two U.S. ambassadors, David K.E. Bruce and C. Douglas Dillon.